Day 7: Walking the Path Alone

forest-trail

By Amanda Cleary Eastep

Day 7: Find Meaning; Give up the Mundane [Days 1-6 linked below]

Did this experience of walking intentionally change you? Will you be walking more? What other things did this make you think of in your life?

He hiked the entire Appalachian Trail.

All 2,179.1 miles of it in 6 months.

Alone.

I chatted with him at a recent event at Lake Katherine Nature Center. His essential gear–water pouches, bedroll, and a “cookstove” made from the bottom of a soda can–were spread across the display table. He told me about his food supply of vacuum-sealed tuna packets and ramen noodles, how his water filter was the same as those used in kidney dialysis machines, and how A Walk in the Woods is an inaccurate hiking memoir and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild is far superior. (Check out his book! The Green Tunnel)

We didn’t talk about why he decided to hike or what fears he faced or why he decided to go it alone. But at one point, his tone switched from animated to almost reverent as he pointed to one of the enlarged photos he had taken of hikers he met along the journey.

In the photo sat two families: a grown son and his mother, and a grown daughter with her father. Six months prior to the first duo’s hike, the mother had a double mastectomy. A few years prior to the second family’s hike, the daughter had been assaulted. These four people had experienced, and were still dealing with, two of the things people fear most. Add to that the possibility of dying.

Whatever their reasons, these parents and children decided to embark on a very different, yet still arduous journey. Why? Why not take a real vacation or bury your emotions in more work?

My friend Erin hiked the Camino de Santigo as a way of healing from a life-altering betrayal.

She walked 550 miles.

Alone.

A few days ago, Erin–who inspired this week-long blog series with her collaborative film project Wander on Purpose–just finished her solitary walk on Ireland’s Wicklow Way.

From what I could see from her photos, the nearly 80-mile journey looked lonely.

And while solitude can be a good thing, walking alone reminds me how much I love hiking–and traversing life’s peaks and valley–with people I love, trust, and can depend on.

STAY TUNED!

Wander on Purpose, the film project

My filmmaker friend Erin is working on a collaborative film project that will include video footage of her hike along Ireland’s Wicklow Way in April/May and clips contributed by other hikers/walkers (like my daughters and me) from around the country. Each day of her journey followed a theme, like finding healthy habits or trust. All week, I “walked alongside” Erin via this blog and shared my experience of how walking/hiking/wandering on purpose can help and heal us.

Check out the photos from Erin’s walk!

Day 1: Finding Healthy Habits

Day 2: Finding Courage, Giving Up Fear

Day 3: Wandering into Surprise

Day 4: Leaving Anger Along the Path

Day 5: Dropping Blessings like Breadcrumbs

Day 6: “Wander” What Your Purpose Is?

Photo: Me in a tunnel of woodland growth. Taken by my youngest daughter with the OM-10 I got for my 8th grade graduation.

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